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Funding for flood defences in Prestolee, Bolton

Volume 676: debated on Monday 11 May 2020

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that Riverside Drive in Prestolee, Bolton, suffered a serious flood on 26 December 2015, and a second serious flood on 9 February 2020. Both of these floods cause significant loss of property. Residents' personal belongings have been destroyed, and their homes and vehicles have been wrecked, causing absolute misery and distress as well as financial hardship. Significant distress was caused to residents at time of the floods, and many have suffered ongoing anxiety, leading to wider issues of mental health. Following the first flood, the Environment Agency propose the construction of flood defences to prevent a recurrence of the devastation. However, the Government has not yet provided the funding required and 5 years after the first flood, no flood defences have yet been installed. With the ever increasing impact of climate change and increasing rainfall, the problem of flooding in this area will not go away and will only get worse. Flood defences are urgently needed to prevent further loss of property and risk to life.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to provide the full funding required for installing flood defences at Prestolee as a matter of urgency.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Yasmin Qureshi, Official Report, 4 March 2020, Vol. 672, c. 952.]

[P002562]

Observations from The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice):

Thank you very much for sharing your petition with me as Secretary of State at DEFRA. I was very sorry to read about the damage and disruption caused to residents of Prestolee in Greater Manchester by flooding in both 2015 and over this last winter.

The Government as a whole fully recognise the devastating impact the recent flooding incidents have had on communities across the country and sympathise with those affected. This Government are committed to investment in flood risk management and continue to play a key role in improving protection for those affected. Between 2015 and 2021, the Government are investing £2.6 billion to better protect the country from flooding, including funding for over 1,000 flood defence schemes better protecting 300,000 homes.

However, the twin pressures of climate change and population growth mean that further action is needed. Therefore, the Government are doubling the amount they invest in the flood and coastal defences in England to £5.2 billion over six years from 2021, which will better protect a further 336,000 homes and non-residential properties from flooding.

The Environment Agency (EA) has been working hard with partners, including Bolton Council, to understand flood risk in Prestolee and Stoneclough and to develop measures that could be put in place to reduce that risk. In doing this, the EA have surveyed and re-modelled the River Irwell and completed a Strategic Business Case. In October 2019 and January 2020 the EA met Yasmin Qureshi MP, along with a member of her team, to provide an update on the work. The EA looks forward to continuing this discussion through the next phase of the project.

A key challenge for the delivery of the Prestolee and Stoneclough Flood Scheme is to secure the complete funding package for construction. Under the Government’s Partnership Funding rules Flood and Coastal Risk Management Grant-in-Aid (FCERM GiA) and Regional Flood and Coastal Committee Local Levy can provide around 60% of the costs. Further funding from other sources must be secured to deliver the works in full (up to £1.5 million). Discussions with potential funding partners are ongoing.

DEFRA FCERM GiA funding for capital projects to maintain or improve flood defences is available from the Environment Agency (EA) in accordance with the Government’s Partnership Funding approach. The Partnership Funding approach was introduced because requests for FCERM GiA each year exceed the total amount of funding available. Flood and Coastal Risk Management projects are therefore being prioritised to optimise the best outcomes available in terms of improved protection.

Since Storm Eva in 2015, the EA has undertaken a series of practical measures to improve resilience in Prestolee and Stoneclough. This has included operational teams removing sediment from the River Irwell, assessing the viability of temporary defences and spraying invasive species on the river bank so that construction of any potential flood walls can be done as efficiently as possible.

Following the latest flood, which occurred on 9 February 2020, the EA held a very well attended community drop in on 11 March. The EA has supported the creation of a flood group to share project updates, share real time flood information and flood forecasts, and gather knowledge and experiences to further understand the flood* risk and develop project proposals.

DEFRA Flood and Coastal Risk Management Grant-in-Aid (FCERM GiA) funding for capital projects to maintain or improve flood defences is available from the Environment Agency in accordance with the Government’s Partnership Funding approach. The Partnership Funding approach was introduced because requests for FCERM GiA each year exceed the total amount of funding available. Flood and Coastal Risk Management projects are therefore be prioritised to optimise the best outcomes available in terms of improved protection.

The aim of Partnership Funding policy is to encourage total investment to increase beyond levels that Government alone can afford. The Partnership Funding approach also aims to:

Increase transparency around levels of Government funding available to Flood and Coastal Risk Management projects;

Enable further investment towards worthwhile projects and encourage external investment;

Allow a greater level of local ownership and choice on how communities are protected;

Encourage more cost-effective solutions; and

Better target DEFRA’s funding toward those who are most at risk and least able to protect or insure themselves.

The Partnership Funding arrangement means that the maximum amount of FCERM GiA available to any project can be calculated based on the outcomes it is expected to achieve, expressed as a Partnership Funding Score. This represents the percentage of project costs that has been secured through FCERM GiA and hence the size of any ‘funding gap’.

Partnership Funding clarifies the level of investment communities can expect from Defra’s FCERM GIA, so it is clear what level of funding is needed from other funding sources to allow projects to go ahead. Partnership funding contributions can be secured from a range of sources including Local Levy, local beneficiaries, partners, and growth funds from the UK government.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact the Secretary of State about this important issue.